Monday, July 24, 2017

Starting with a Strong Foundation

Building Customer Relationships: Part 2

Now that you're starting with a clean slate, it's time to build up a strong foundation with your customers.  This foundation is built upon what many would consider to be "the basics".  Treat your customers with respect, be patient and understanding with them when they ask for support, don't try to win an argument, ask good questions to guide them to the solution they need, etc.  But what is the biggest factor, the best thing you can do to build a relationship with your customers?

Love them.

You have to love your customers.  This is something that is easier said than done, of course.  It's easy to love the customers you have when they are easy to work with, when they are happy to be speaking with you, or when they want to tell you how great your product or service has been working for them.  It's not so easy when they call in upset or frustrated, or when things aren't working the way they want them to and they take their frustration out on you.

We have all experienced both types of customers (and we have all probably been both types of customers ourselves too), and once we have one bad encounter with a specific customer, it's hard to love them in the future. To love difficult customers, you need to change your mindset.  Every day is a new day.  Every conversation is a new conversation.

So when you recognize their number calling on the phone or see a notification of a new email from them, before you pick up that phone or start going on a rampage with your email response, make a mental note to: 1) remember that you have been in their shoes before, 2) erase any negative thoughts of conversations you've had with them in the past, and 3) go into the conversation with positivity and excitement.  If you do, your attitude will rub off on them making the conversation go much smoother.

The other major foundational piece of building strong customer relationships is....

Good communication.

  • Ask your customers questions, make sure you have a clear understanding of exactly what it is that they need. 
  • Communicate with them regularly to ask how your product or service is working for them making sure they are satisfied with you and your business.  
  • Don't just stick to small talk, get to know your customers.  Understanding who they are and how they think can allow you to service them better.  

For example, some people are so detail oriented that they can't step back and see the bigger picture of how things will fit together.  Others are the opposite: they see the big picture and how a project should look when it's finished, but can't understand all of the smaller steps that must be taken first. 

A few years ago, we had our bathrooms redone in our house.  When the tiler was laying out the shower tiles, I didn't understand why he started in the middle of the wall instead of just starting on the edge and working his way down.  He said he does it this way so that the tiles on each end of the shower are the same size.  In this situation, I was thinking about the big picture, rather than the details.  Just based on our conversation, he could understand my way of thinking and was able to explain in way that made sense to me.

Getting to know your customers can help you see the way they think: are they detail oriented, or a big  picture thinker, or something else?  Once you know this, you can communicate more clearly with them, as the tiler did for me.

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